Many mothers worry they “do not have enough milk” to meet the needs of their baby. If you’re wondering how to increase your milk supply, remember that breastfeeding is a DEMAND = SUPPLY relationship. See the breastfeeding tips below to help determine if your milk supply is optimal.
“Gold Standard” for Measuring Your Milk Supply
- Most babies lose weight after being born. They should start to regain weight by day 4-5 and be back up to their birth weight by the end of week two.
- Diaper counts will help reassure your baby is feeding effectively. After day 4, your baby should have 4-6 wet (pee) diapers and 2-4 yellow, seedy stools (poop) a day.
If you don’t become engorged that doesn’t mean you don’t have milk. Your body is increasing your milk every day AND trying to balance excess fluid you don’t need after delivery. Softer breasts after the first few weeks postpartum are natural.
Leaking is not a good indicator of milk supply. Leaking varies from woman to woman and some do not leak at all!
Expressing milk with a pump can be difficult at first. It can take two weeks to create a milk supply with pumping. On average most moms pump 1/2 oz- 1 oz after breastfeeding.
Drinking from a bottle after breastfeeding does not mean the baby is hungry. Some babies relax by sucking. Remember, the flow from a bottle is much faster than the breast and they’d have to swallow while sucking or they would choke. Watch your baby for hunger cues.
Tips on breastfeeding and how to increase breast milk supply
- Skin-to-skin holding will help you make milk. Take off the baby’s clothes, leave a diaper and place the baby on the mom’s bare chest then cover with a blanket. Hold your baby this way as much as possible in the first weeks – you won’t spoil a baby by holding it!
- Do not limit sucking time at the breast. Offer both breasts with each feeding. The baby may only want one breast and that is okay. If your nipples are sore talk to your IBCLC for ways to help.
- Newborns should feed 8-12 times a day. Remember you cannot feed your baby too much, however, you can feed too little.
- Make sure YOU are well-nourished. Studies have shown most healthy breastfeeding women need a minimum of 1800-2200 calories daily. Drink to satisfy your thirst. Rapid weight loss (more than 1-2 lbs a week) can decrease milk supply.
- Pumping increases stimulation and production but not all moms need to pump. Remember DEMAND increases SUPPLY. If you are asked to pump to increase supply; breastfeed first, then pump both breasts together for 15 minutes. Most women pump 1/2 to 1 oz after a feeding. Remember your baby gets the milk first.
- A galactagogue is a substance that may help increase breast milk supply. Malunggay, blessed thistle, alfalfa, and goats rue are a few commonly used. Before taking any supplement, talk to your doctor. There are some instances when they are not recommended.
- Some medications can decrease supply. Antihistamines and some forms of birth control pills can decrease supply. Talk to your doctor about which birth control method is best for you while breastfeeding.
Supplementing and Suck Training
Supplementing your baby with formula is not necessary unless medically indicated. Your care team will let you know if supplementing is suggested. Using a special syringe or medicine dropper to feed the additional milk at a slower rate helps protect the established breastfeeding relationship. Babies can become fussy when trying to breastfeed after having a bottle because the milk flows faster from a bottle than it does from a mom. Always breastfeed first, provide the supplemental milk, and then pump afterward.
Suck Training is used to support a weak or disorganized sucking pattern. This is a process used to help develop muscle coordination and tone needed for breastfeeding.
Stroke from your baby’s nose to the chin to help open his mouth. As he opens his mouth, gently stick 1/3 of your finger (palm side up) in his mouth. Once in the baby’s mouth, gently stroke the roof of his mouth to get him to begin to suck. While the baby is sucking, slowly turn your finger over so the pad of your finger is on the tongue. Your baby should be wrapping the sides of his/her tongue around your finger in a “U” shape. With your finger straight (applying gentle pressure onto the back of the tongue) pull down, moving toward the lower lip. Gently “rub” the tongue while you push down with your finger as the baby is sucking. Repeat process 3 times allowing the baby to suck on the finger for 10-20 seconds, then breastfeed.
Schedule your lactation consult with your newborn visit in the office or virtually!